Sure wine country is romantic, but now it’s a surprisingly great destination for families too, with a growing number of vineyards trading in elegant tasting rooms for kid-friendly fun zones that happen to also pour amazing wines for the grownups. The boom in craft breweries has also been a boom for families, with brewing facilities including not just tasting rooms, but inviting outdoor spaces, special family-friendly tours, and restaurants offering special kids’ menus. Some places even have tail-wagging dogs that welcome a good scratch behind the ears.
With more than 130 breweries within its borders, San Diego County has become a hub of craft brewing. Yet one of its oldest craft breweries remains one of its brightest stars, with die-hard fans the world over.
Stone Brewing was founded in 1996 by Greg Koch and Steve Wagner, two music industry guys who discovered they shared a mutual obsession with craft brewing. The duo’s bold, hop-centric Stone IPA immediately struck a chord with beer lovers, and the brewery has been expanding ever since.
After outgrowing its original San Marcos space, Stone moved to a 5295 square metre facility in Escondido. Over the years, the brewery has racked up too many awards and accolades to name, landing the top spot on BeerAdvocate’s list of “All-Time Top Brewers.”
Stone’s Escondido brewing complex is also home to Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, named by RateBeer Best in 2017 as “The Best Place for Beer in the United States." With its lush organic gardens, waterfalls, and cozy Adirondack chairs, the expansive outdoor patio is a great place to kick back and sample as many as a dozen Stone brews. Bring the kids, even, who can dabble their fingers in sparkling fountains and join you for a game of bocce on a pair of courts. After dark, an outdoor movie screen adds free entertainment for all, while fire pits warm the scene.
Academy Award-winning director Francis Ford Coppola adds his larger-than-life style to his estate-like compound near Geyserville, in the north end Sonoma County wine country. This everyone’s-welcome play land isn’t just about wine, but relaxing in wine-country style—no matter when you were born. On a warm afternoon in summer, relax by the fabulous pool while your kids wade in special shallow zones or splash in fountains, and you might start scheming how to work here so you never have to leave.
See who’s got game in your family with a round of bocce on pretty courts overlooking surrounding vineyards. Take turns watching the kids so you can slip away for wine tasting, or join an interesting tour.
Inside the main building, where there’s also a full-service restaurant celebrating fresh, local ingredients, visit Coppola’s memorabilia-filled movie gallery, complete with some of his shiny Academy Awards.
Insider’s tip: Splurge on a poolside private cabana for ultimate relaxation; day-use fee includes an all-day pool pass. Bocce courts and some wine tastings are free.
Tucked away in the southwest corner of Riverside County, this vineyard retains its traditional California ranch feel while still being only a hop, skip, and a jump from the beaches of Southern California. And it’s offers crazy-good fun for families.
First, there are lively Saturday night bonfires, offered on summer weekends. Kids can climb aboard a mechanical bull, get their faces painted, take a carriage ride around the property, and give you please-can-I-have-one looks for treats from snack bar. They just might get what they want after you’ve relaxed with a local glass of wine or craft beer. Kids can also visit with the ranch’s dogs and horses. Live music sometimes adds a nice touch (check the winery website for details).
Insider’s tip: Unlike some local wineries, this ultra-casual Temecula Valley charmer doesn’t require reservations for its wine tastings.
One of the early—and now leading—names in California’s craft beer scene, this brewing company has grown from modest 1980 beginnings in the tucked-away college town of Chico, about 140-km north of Sacramento, to operate microbreweries all over the U.S. The impressive yet inviting headquarters is a must stop for any craft-brew fan; take the excellent brewery tour to learn about beer-making, and get a touch of local history too. While the guided tasting of new and limited-release beers is for adults only, the entire family can dine in the brewery’s Taproom restaurant. The kids’ menu has some fun twists too, such as organic peanut butter, golden raisins, and fresh fruit on crunchy flatbread.
Book the Ultimate Tour at this picturesque vineyard, spilling down a vine-covered hillside on the outskirts of Healdsburg. To tour the rambling estate, climb aboard a Swiss military-style vehicle to bump and jostle across the hills. Next, follow your guide on a walking tour of Bella’s elegantly appointed wine caves—including richly appointed nooks and crannies reserved for weddings and other special events—to an underground tasting room.
Back outside, relax under handsome oaks—maybe with another glass or two—while the kids romp on the lawn, toss beanbags, or give hula-hoops a whirl.
On the search for great beer in the City by the Bay, but toting along your little ones? Head for this handsomely restored 1930s-era building overlooking San Francisco’s Ocean Beach. Check out the lobby’s remarkable original murals, but ignore the signs directing you to the more formal upstairs restaurant.
Instead, head straight back to the Beach Chalet’s inviting garden, which seems to meld into the forests of Golden Gate Park. Children love to dash around the open space while you order a house brew (or choose from a wide array of California wines by the glass). Can’t decide which beer to try? The sampler set has your number.
After a day exploring the rancher-meets-winemaker town of Paso Robles, or maybe explore Morro Bay, about 48 kilometres west on the coast, head to this impressive brewery and restaurant. Firestone’s celebrated beers are made using a fascinating oak-barrel system currently used by only one other brewery in the world. Learn about its unique qualities and the kinds of beers it produces on a brewery tour—kids ages 12 and older are welcome to come along.
The large onsite restaurant offers pleasant outdoor seating—perfect for families. Kid-friendly items on the menu include house-made pretzels, a trio of fries (regular, sweet potato, and seasoned), fish-and-chips, and pizza. Once they’ve tucked into their fare, you can lean back and sample from house-favorite pours, taproom-only kegs, reserve series beers, plus Velvet Merlin Nitro and other seasonal and specialty brews.
For a fun road trip with payoff for all, wind into wine country north of Santa Barbara to this elegant estate. Sure there are delicious wines for grownups—including a complex Syrah (hints of blackberry and mocha) and Roussane, an unusual white with apricot, fig, and honey notes—but there’s also a giant chessboard with life-size pieces. If the kids don’t know how to play, just use the pieces like checkers. Get pretty views and a nice dose of nature on inviting trails to deep pools of shade beneath handsome live oaks.
Plan ahead and pack a picnic—including meats and other items for grilling (onsite grills and picnic tables are open to all). Or, on most summer and holiday weekends, enjoy creative fare from local food trucks while local singers and musicians perform on the lawn.
Four house beers, 20 local brews on tap, and over 100 different bottles are certainly the main draws at this temple to beer in the unfussy and laid-back Sonoma County town of Sebastopol. But a beer garden out back, with tables with umbrellas and twining grape vines hinting at surrounding wine country, makes an inviting retreat for families. Fire pits warm up chilly evenings. And you can warm up with a rich Cabernet Sauvignon or another Sonoma vintage by the glass.
A kids’ menu offers ubiquitous chicken tenders and mac-and-cheese, but adventurous youngsters can class it up pan-roasted salmon and a chock-full-of-fresh-stuff salad. HopMonk Tavern regularly books live music, so the little ones can show off their dance moves too.